Fragments of Light

The Art of Contemplation

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

In “Three Talks in a Sculptor’s studio” an essay in Only the Lover Sings, the philosopher Joseph Pieper considers the role of contemplation to the artist’s process:

How meticulously, how intensively—with the heart, as it were—must a sculptor have gazed on a human face before being able to render a portrait . . . to see in contemplation, moreover, is not limited to the tangible surface of reality; it certainly perceives more than appearances. An art flowing from contemplation does not attempt to to copy reality as rather to capture the archetypes of all that is. Such art does not want to depict what everybody already sees but to make visible what not everybody sees.

Blind heart, clay heart, waiting for the breeze to casually drop a seed and so awaken as a seeing being. . .

How would you describe your own creative process? Comments welcome.

12 thoughts on “The Art of Contemplation

  1. This is why I subscribed. Quite a few years ago, I started receiving Spiritual Direction. At the time, I was reading a lot of C.G. Jung. Six months after that, I started the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. I prayed the Exercises using Jung’s description of Active Imagination. Active Imagination opened up my spiritual life which became integrated into my daily life. Through contemplation and meditation, I realized I was most Christ-like when I was most human, using all my senses. When I pray with Lectio Divine, with Scripture, I imagine I am a certain person (an archetype – a shepherd, Peter, the woman at the well, etc), at a certain place, in a certain situation. I engage my senses and enter the scene. I discovered that when I contemplate in this way, it is truly happening; in my mind, yes, but it is still real, as Jung says. Since then, I have become a certified Faith Companion with my archdiocese, started an email prayer group, shared my meditations, and given a few presentations on my experiences and how to be open to contemplation using Active Imagination. It has ordered my life to Christ and brought me to consciousness. Thank you for allowing me to share my story and I look forward to more from Mount Tabor.

  2. On Sun, Jan 19, 2014 at 8:39 AM, Carol Bishop wrote:

    Dear Fragments of Light, I wanted to respond to the question “how do you see your own creative process…?”

    I feel within me a deep desire for creativity, my process always seems to start with contemplation. It’s extremely visual. Most of the times when I have attempted painting, or drawing or art or even writing and poetry I have spent time thinking and looking and even, yes, praying….I see a picture and am drawn to it, I place it somewhere and look at it for weeks, even months on end, and then I wait…and the spirit, as it were, comes and guides my hand.

  3. As an occupational therapist, I am challenged to see my patients, not as everybody already sees, but through creative eyes. My work is to make visible what is not and to illuminate the individuals heart to believe in the impossible. This sounds grand but it is the insignificant daily occupations which change us. Thank you Sharon for your comment about being most Christlike when you were most human.

    1. Never think that this is anything other than absolutely grand. What we (or the world) may think of as unimportant and insignificant can actually be our largest creative moments. However, we can determine that only through a contemplative heart.

  4. Like Carol, my creativity begins in contemplation: lectio divina, walks in nature, or simply sitting with the materials I would like to use artistically. I make quilts and I weave little dolls called Wisdom Sisters. I find as I work with a project I need to spend time contemplating it and allowing the Spirit and the materials to guide my work.
    Moira, I’m deeply touched by your approach to your work as an occupational therapist.

  5. My first experience with contemplation occurred when I was very young and learning about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I remember being in such awe that someone would love the world so much that they would die such a horrific death in the name of love. The more that I contemplated this love, the more I felt this love. As I grew up, I realized that I was in the minority with this experience. I did not discuss this love but always knew that it was there. When I began to create, I was mystified by people’s reaction to my artwork. Something that seemed so effortless to me made a big impression on others. After much observation of the reactions of others, I came to the conclusion that the same love that came to me so long ago, went into my artwork and was received by the viewers. The energy that I put into creating my artwork came back to me when I looked into the eyes of the viewers. That transferring of energy is a mystery to me, which I find myself contemplating during my quiet time.

  6. A friend of mine sent me an article from the Northeast Center for Rehabilitation and Brain Injury called Healing People Through Creativity.

    I was struck by the following: “Why is fine art and performing art so effective in promoting wellness? Though in life uncertainty is scary and disorienting, in creativity being in a state of the unknown is necessary and magical. Making art, music or poetry helps us transform what we know about ourselves in the world, developing one’s freedom to express.”

  7. I think also that when one is truly engaged in, absorbed in a creative process (as a healer, or a writer/poet, or an artist), one is IN RELATIONSHIP WITH, in co-creation with God/Spirit AND with another person, or words, or their art form so that the unknown/uncertainty is not as scary because it gives one an orientation, a focus, a connection with. Being in this state is very healing. In my many years as a psychotherapist, I grew and healed and understood and loved more deeply by being in process with my clients.

  8. For me, as a sculptor, creativity always springs from uncertainty, from doubt, but not a scary sort of uncertainty that requires resolution. Rather, it seems an anticipatory uncertainty, perhaps akin to the explorer’s feeling as the last landmarks fade. I contemplate what is unknown: about my subject; my material– and, myself. The made thing is not an answer or an endpoint. To me, it is a sort of spiritual inuksuk I leave for myself (and others) should I pass this way again having become lost.

    1. Thank-you for this comment, Robert. It reminds me of The Way, the Camino. Our recreating, with the Creator, is a way finding and a way marking. These comments on this blog are enlarging my soul as I read and re read them. So much experience behind each one. Merci, gracias.

  9. Yes. Would that our arts were such markers of significance on our own inner landscape, places of mystery opening into awe, multivalent signs built of earth, implying heaven’s reach.

  10. While I think of myself as a ‘visual’ person, in that I remember and understand things in pictures, I spend most of my days listening. When I think of the creative part of my work (as a psychotherapist), I realize that I am also watching the person as s/he speaks. Hearing the words, the inflections, the dialect, it seems that I am helping to create a changed person–using his/her words for the transformation. I never thought of contemplation/creativity in that way before.

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